Futures Command looking to grow Army tech talent through new educational programs

The Army wants to have more AI skills across its force, with technologists informing how it thinks about the future. So it's launching several new programs to educate and collaborate.
Gen. John M. Murray, Army Futures Command commanding general, and Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics, and technology, update reporters at the Pentagon on Army modernization efforts and Army Futures Command, July 18, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Mr. John G. Martinez)

The Army knows it needs more brain power behind its future firepower.

To retain and educate soldiers that have technology skills, the Army’s Futures Command announced it will launch a master’s degree program in artificial intelligence at Carnegie Mellon University this fall. The program — for military personnel only — will offer a crash course on data science and then build practical skills with the Army AI Task Force, a part of Futures Command located at CMU.

The Army is also looking to stand up a new “software factory” that will teach soldiers across the Army basic coding skills. The new educational programs come as the Army is formalizing a way to pair technologists with those that conceptualize strategies and future force structures to have experts inform how the Army will use technology in the future. 

“This is just beginning to seed the Army with the types of talent we’re going to need in the future if we’re going to take advantage of data, if we’re going to take advantage of artificial intelligence in the future,” Gen. John “Mike” Murray, head of Futures Command, said during a Defense Writers Group virtual press conference last week.


The idea behind both programs is to concentrate high-value skills like data science and AI inside the Army and also be able to diffuse basic-level technology skills across the force. The AI masters program at the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, university will be available to young officers, noncommissioned officers and warrant officers and is designed to take about one year of hands-on learning. Then, the data-expert soldiers will be sent back out to the field to further the Army’s AI goals.

Pairing AI with concept writers

The program involving concept writers is called “Team Ignite,” and its main goal will be to ensure better communications happens between experts. At the moment the development of the project remains “ad hoc” but the command is working to formalize the collaboration, Murray said.

Murray added that the program will help solve a problem for the Army’s acquisition and strategizing around emerging technology. The military’s largest branch has struggled in the past with matching the reality of technology to its expectations, like its long journey to build autonomous ground vehicles. Often the concepts put into Army strategy or in proposals for new requests to industry get a head of where the technology is.

“It has occurred to me for a long time that when we prepare concepts about how we will fight in the future they’re usually not informed by scientists and what is potentially out there in terms of technology,” the general said on the call.

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